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Monday, July 7, 2014


Dear Josie,

Trust should be a four letter word.

Your brother had his tonsils removed last week.  This surgery was necessary.  From an early age I noticed the problem, mostly during sleep.  I would creep into his room as many a parent has done, carefully watching his chest rise, willing every next breath.

Your father and I always joked about it, your brother the horrible sleeper.  It took him nearly a year to sleep through the night, even then he would wake constantly, stumbling into our room and demanding to be rocked back to sleep.  We attributed our midnight interruptions to his temperament, his longing to be with us, but when he was two I began to notice something disturbing.  At first, it seemed like heavy congestion.  He would snore loudly every night, tossing and turning and sweating through his dreams.  His breathing would stop, once for thirteen seconds.  I knew what sleep apnea was, but I couldn't believe that a perfectly healthy two year old could be at its mercy. 

After consulting with an ENT, we decided your brother needed his adenoids removed.  These would be the masses of lymphatic tissue located where the mouth meets the nose.  His were so enlarged, the doctor told us he had one hundred percent blockage.  The poor kid could not even breathe through his nose. Additionally, due to the enlarged tissue he had a significant amount of fluid surrounding each ear drum.  I remember the doctor saying he had muffled hearing, like someone underwater. Tubes were a must.   I felt horrible. 

The surgery was so quick.  I was nervous, as any parent would be when their child goes under for any reason; however I was also confident.  Confident that his life was improving.  Confident that I was making the right decision for the well being of my young son.  Confident that he would wake up, that I would drive him home the same day.  I was trusting.  Never gave it a second thought. 

The apnea resolved, almost completely; however I noticed that the snoring did not.  At all.  I would nap with him occasionally, and watch him toss and turn in the same manner he always did, coughing and choking and sweating through his pillowcase.  He got strep throat on a monthly basis, always followed by a sinus infection due to the enlarged tonsils blocking any drainage effort.  In a six month span, your brother was on antibiotics fourteen times.  He was always sick, always congested.  Always uncomfortable.  The doctors advised waiting until he was four due to the intensity of the recovery process.  Soon enough, it was time.

The tonsilectomy was a "no brainer".  But I worried.  I am no longer the confident parent.  I am different from all the other moms on the playground.  I see trips and concussions, lobectomies and blood transfusions hiding behind bike trails and six foot plastic slides.  Death is a part of my life now.  I have lived the shock, been the worst case scenario.  In short, I no longer trust life. 

There is a popular  exercise designed to foster trust.  One person stands or sits in an elevated position, looking forward and falling back into the the person behind them.  You can't see what's coming, the arms behind you.  One can only trust they will be caught.

The night before your brother's second surgery I couldn't sleep.  I knelt next to his bed for hours, the light of my phone illuminating the baseball posters on the walls, the lego towers and strewn tennis shoes.  I felt such a responsibility then.  A dread in the pit of my stomach that nearly ate me alive.

The next day, the doctors and nurses offered their guidance in that tiny room.  Your father was all smiles, anxious to "fix" his little boy, excited to embrace the two week postoperative healing process; however I couldn't help but imagine it.  As we entered the building I glanced at his car seat, wondered if it was the last time I'd ever lift him from it.   I saw these same faces as they smiled at me, an hour from now rushing worriedly into the waiting room with the news.  I saw the anesthesia he never awoke from.  I saw the tiny headstone and the empty bed, watched myself folding soccer shorts into storage and screaming into my husband's arms.  Watched us leave empty handed as we had without you.  

For thirty minutes  I paced and shifted in my seat until they told me he was fine.  I ran into the recovery room to see it for my own eyes.  I still didn't believe it as I lay him into bed that night, watching him breathe comfortably, quietly for the first time in his life, as I began to cry.

Trust is a sacred thing.  Difficult to earn, no doubt.  Even harder to relearn. 

There is a part of me that will never trust life completely.  My most precious possession, all of my worldly abilities to hope for the best ripped from me, quite literally in the cruelest of ways.  I wonder if I'll ever think fondly of pregnancy again, of babies in beds of linen or the warmest and safest of tissue, turning and kicking and growing with a promise to remain.  Life has wronged me.  Nothing will ever change that.

But I was proud of myself that night as I tucked him in.  I pulled the comforter to his cheeks and set the alarm for his 2am meds.  I have grown so used to hitting the cold pavement below that I almost didn't recognize it.  Success.  Relief.  After spending the day in free fall I could finally feel the flesh, the arms of the presence behind me.  The promise kept when I wasn't looking. 

I spent the night in his room, made it to my bed the day after. 

I guess that has to count for something.  


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